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The best grain-free cat foods to keep your cat healthy

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Cuddly as he may be, the basic fact is that Mr. Fuzzybottom is an obligate carnivore — he's sort of on the same paleo diet kick as your friends but, like, permanently.

He's evolved to eat and process meat, not heavily processed filler grains such as ground yellow corn and wheat flour. Nope, your fuzzy buddy is designed to run lean on a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Which is why in the wild, cats can be found happily stalking birds and mice, not absentmindedly grazing in pastures like cows. That isn't to say cats can't eat grains — they can and do. It's the excessive amount of carbohydrates found in those grain-heavy foods that raise the red flag.

It's been estimated that only around 2 percent of your cat's diet should consist of carbohydrates. So when feeding their kitties those filler grains found in many popular cat foods, some of which can have carbohydrate levels as high as 35 to 50 percent, is when many pet owners inadvertently open the door to a whole host of troubling medical problems.

Diabetes, obesity, kidney stones and struvite crystals, skin and coat problems, behavior issues and allergy issues are all associated with a high-carbohydrate diet. Worse still, going grain-free doesn't necessarily mean you're finally ditching those carbs. Grain-free fillers like pea fiber, potato and tapioca are loaded with carbohydrates — as well as canned foods in gravy — and all can pose the very same risks as the grain-heavy foods.

Fortunately, simply by educating yourself on common pet food ingredients and choosing brands with a clear, easily understood label, you can set your feline on a healthier, more nutritionally balanced path. But before you throw that bag of chicken-flavored corn gluten meal to the curb, it is important to remember that every cat has its own unique needs, so you should consult with your veterinarian before making any sudden changes to Mr. Fuzzybottom's diet.

Dehydrated/Raw

Grandma Lucy's Artisan

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Amazon

Grandma Lucy's Artisan freeze-dried cat food makes a simple claim — to make the pet food you would make for your pet if you had the time at home. Judging from the straightforward, wholesome ingredients, that might very well be true. (Grandma Lucy's, $24 for 3 pounds)

The Honest Kitchen

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Amazon

Just add water to a cupful of The Honest Kitchen's Grace to make a delicious, high-quality meal of turkey, eggs, pumpkin, chard and cranberries. (The Honest Kitchen, $29 for 2 pounds — 6-8 pounds rehydrated)

Nature's Variety Instinct Raw Boost

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Petco

Real rabbit, healthy vegetables and kitty-friendly fruits abound in Nature's Variety Instinct Raw Boost, featuring a unique freeze-dried raw coating for pure nutrition and great taste. (Nature's Variety, $16 for 2.2 pounds)

Stella & Chewy's

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: DoggieFood

With a few tablespoons of water, Stella & Chewy's Duck Duck Goose Dinner is 98 percent raw, farm-raised poultry for a natural gluten-free dinner with no added hormones or additives. (Stella & Chewy's, $22 for 12 ounces)

Canned

Canidae Grain Free Pure Elements

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Petco

Suitable for cats of all ages, Canidae Grain Free Pure Elements' basic, holistic ingredients are gentle on more sensitive kitties' tummies. (Canidae, $21 for 12 [5.5-ounce] cans)

Hound & Gatos

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Amazon

A complete and balanced meal, Hound & Gatos' trout recipe skips the plant fillers for an excellent source of high-quality protein. (Hound & Gatos, $41 for 24 [5.5-ounce] cans)

PureVita

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: DoggieFood

From the makers of NutriSource, PureVita's grain-free chicken stew uses tomato to promote a strong immune system and a healthy heart. (PureVita, $22 for 24 [6-ounce] cans)

Soulistic

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Petco

Soulistic's grain-free adult cat food pouches feature whole cuts of free-range white chicken breast in pumpkin soup for a wholesome, high-quality feast. (Soulistic, $10 for 8 [3-ounce] food pouches)

Tiki Cat

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Chewy

Wild-caught ahi tuna loin and shredded chicken breast are simmered in a chicken consommé broth in Tiki Cat's Hookena Luau recipe for a gourmet meal that might be just a bit better than the lunch you're having. (Petropics, $10 for 8 [3-ounce] food pouches)

Weruva Best Feline Friend

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Amazon

Tear open a pouch of Tuna & Turkey Tickles or Tuna & Salmon Sweet-Cheeks from Weruva's BFF variety pack for a BPA-, grain-, wheat-, corn- and soy-free snack. (Weruva, $27 for 8 [3-ounce] food pouches)

Dry

Blue Buffalo Wilderness

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Amazon

Formulated by animal nutritionists, Blue Buffalo Wilderness' grain-free dry cat food bills itself as a sensible alternative to raw diets, providing a balance of protein, fats and healthy complex carbohydrates. (Blue Buffalo, $17 for 2.5 pounds)

Merrick Purrfect Bistro

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Petco

Formulated to meet AAFCO's nutritional standards for complete and balanced pet foods, Merrick Purrfect Bistro's grain-free healthy salmon adult cat food lists deboned salmon as its first ingredient with chicken and turkey meals and local, fresh ingredients for a recipe that gets whole health right. (Merrick, $17 for 4 pounds)

Petcurean Go! Fit + Free

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Amazon

Petcurean's Go! Fit + Free grain-free chicken, turkey and duck recipe is packed with premium quality ingredients: proteins for power and energy, taurine to help vision and heart function, omega oils for healthy skin and coat and pre- and probiotics to support healthy digestion. (Petcurean, $21 for 4 pounds)

Taste of the Wild

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Amazon

Give your active cat a Taste of the Wild with roasted venison, smoked salmon, fruits and vegetables for an amino-acid rich formula that will have your feline raring to go. (Taste of the Wild, $11 for 5 pounds)

Wellness Core

Is your kitty going grain-free? Try one of these top grain-free cat foods

Image: Amazon

Based on cat's primal ancestry, Wellness' CORE natural grain-free dry cat food turkey and duck recipe packs a punch with a high concentration of animal protein in addition to plenty of antioxidents, probiotics, vitamins and minerals. (Wellness Natural Pet Food, $12 for 2 pounds)

More on feeding your cat

Why Petco did a smart thing by banning all pet foods made in China
The truth about your cat’s food
6 Tips to keep your cat healthy

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